- Great for small groups (2-4 people) and for solo use
- simple feature set makes it easy for novices to get started and be productive.
- Large groups will require an external screen or a projector for maximum usability.
Brainstorming is a recognised method of gathering ideas and solving problems. It's a great way of covering the known ground and encouraging lateral thinking. The trouble with brainstorming is the time and effort required to organise random ideas into something coherent. The organising usually happens outside the brainstorming session, and can suffer from loss of impetus and the appearance of intended or unintended bias. MindGenius Brainbloom is designed to take the pain out of producing a structured end product from brainstorming exercises. It's designed for the Tablet PC, and takes advantage of the pen input that the platform provides.
The first step is entering your (or your colleagues’) thoughts into an on-screen grid. This is the equivalent of writing onto a flip chart or whiteboard. Next, you group those thoughts using a highlighter pen. Seven colours are available, one idea can belong to more than one group, and each group can be identified with a name.
With this done you create an ‘affinity diagram’, which organises thoughts in a ‘branching tree’ arrangement, each under its own colour-coded heading. Any unassigned thoughts are put into a separate branch that’s automatically colour-coded to grey. You can drag thoughts between groups or change their highlight colour to move them around, and create sub-branches by dragging and dropping. This really underpins MindGenius Brainbloom’s benefit, as to complete this exercise conventionally would require any number of time-consuming flipchart- or whiteboard-based rewrites.
When the group is happy with the organisation of its thoughts, the latter can be turned from ink to text by tapping a toolbar icon. Files are saved at this point either to XML or to a format that can be imported into the MindGenius mind mapping software they can be added to existing mind maps and manipulated further.
MindGenius Brainbloom has its advantages and drawbacks. It certainly makes it easier and faster to organise random thoughts into patterns than flipchart and pen do. But there are a couple of downsides both from a technical and a practical point of view.
MindGenius Brainbloom needs to be easy to use if it’s to be a success in situations where ideas flow fast and freely, and we appreciate the fact that options are kept to a minimum to maximise usability. However, you can only change the number and size of cells on a page before you start entering data. Once recording has begun, if cells are too small to handle your content, you’ll either have to truncate your writing or start again with larger cell sizes. Also, you are limited to just the seven provided colours for grouping ideas (plus grey for unassigned items), which could prove restrictive for some complex brainstorming sessions.
On a practical level, we wonder how well MindGenius Brainbloom will serve groups of more than about four people. Most Tablet PCs’ displays are relatively small, and four is probably the maximum number that can effectively see the screen at once. Output to a large external screen or projector may help here, but that adds more technology to what should be a simple solution. Second, the processes involved in organising the information captured in MindGenius Brainbloom are time-consuming, and probably mean that the recorder won’t be able to fully participate in the idea-generation process. This may only matter if your meetings are usually self-serviced, of course.
Finally, as already noted, doing anything more meaningful in terms of mind mapping with the gathered ideas requires that you import them to another application, so obviously you’ll need to obtain that application too.
If you can work with these limitations, MindGenius Brainbloom is pretty impressive. What it does isn’t rocket science by any means, but it is potentially time-saving, and enables the complete brainstorming process to be achieved using the full energy and enthusiasm of a meeting, which may ultimately mean greater buy-in to the outcomes.